Archive for March, 2010

Scrambled egg with mustard green pickle, for two

Monday, March 29th, 2010

I recently discovered an odd (to me) treat, when I ordered a dish in a small chinese restaurant.  it was listed on the menu as “pork with mustard greens,” and  I was expecting a pork and greens stir fry.  Which is what I got, but with a twist.

The greens were pickled.  The first bite was so strange to me,and such a shock that I wasn’t sure I liked it, but with each bite I enjoyed it more and more. 

I asked the owner/cook whether she made the pickle her self, and in accented english, she laughed and told me no that she bought the pickled greens.

When I went to one of our local oriental groceries to find the pickle, I found out why the restaurant owner had laughed.  There were so many brands, sizes, and varieities of similar vegetable pickles, that I think a comparable question to an American-style restaurant would have been “do you make your own ketchup?”

I bought a couple in the smallest cans I could find (I was intimidated by the larger jars), and started looking through recipes in asian cookbooks at the library and online, and I came up with my own variation, using American style bacon rather than asian-style smoke-cured pork (which our oriental grocery had, but it was pretty expensive).

Scrambled eggs with mustard green pickle for 2

2 thin slices of bacon (or 1 thick), sliced in small slivers
4 green onions chopped (I use most of the green as well as the white)
4 eggs
1 can of mustard green pickles, drained very well (squeeze out the liquid) and if necessary chopped into uniform pieces (there were a couple big pieces in my can).
 (I used Pigeon brand “Fermented Acrid Sweet Mustard Green” The acrid, means “pungent” in this case.  It’s seasoned with chili peppers so has a little bit of a kick, but no stronger than canned green chiles.  There’s a bit of added sugar in the brine, but it’s not a sweet pickle, it’s just a little less sharp in flavor than the other similar pickles).

Drain the pickle really well.  I squeezed out as much of the liquid as I could). 

In a skillet, saute the bacon for a few minutes, then add in the green onions and cook until the bacon is almost crisp and the onions are soft.  Add the mustard greens and stir fry (it starts to smell really awesome).

Add beaten eggs and cook to your preference (scraping and stirring frequently for small curds,  less frequently for larger curds or omelet style lifting the edge and tilting the pan to make the omelette, with no stirring).

by my calculations

approximately , 240 calories 2 protein, 1 vegetable, 1 fat

 

 

Personal Blenders Rock, (Rocket, Magic Bullet…)

Friday, March 26th, 2010

If you’ve ever had insomnia, you’ve probably seen the tacky and overacted infomercials for the Magic Bullet personal blender.  Lame commercial, but really cool gadget, and an even cooler birthday present (Thanks Mom and Dad). 

Actually, I didn’t get the Magic Bullet, mine is the Rocket blender 17 piece personal blender system from Bella Kitchen.  

Awesome, awesome, awesome.  I’ve only tried it once, and I’m already in love.  It’s perfect for blending smoothies.  Even in a blender, protein powder doesn’t always dissolve well, which can leave a smoothie with a gritty or lumpy texture.  Not (as Alton Brown would say) Good Eats.

I was very much impressed with the Rocket.  It blended very quickly, taking only a few senconds, and the smoothie didn’t have a trace of grittiness or lumps. The entire system is very light weight, and easy to clean.  I love that there are two blades, and multiple cups, it means that the blender isn’t “out of commission” after only one use.  Rinsing the blade and you’re ready to make the next smoothie (or whatever).

Even if it only could be used for smoothies, I’d consider it a great gadget, but it’s much more versatile than that.  I suspect that I’ll have very little use for my blender, food processor, and coffee/spice grinder.

It’s also reasonably priced (the Rocket the best of the lot I’ve seen so far, retailing for only about $20).

 

Making food journaling easier (or at least harder to avoid)

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

I used to keep my food and exercise journal in a standard-sized 3 ring binder, but I thought I’d use it more if I reduced it’s size to a Day Planner size to fit 8.5 x 5.5 ” paper. It helped, but I still wasn’t taking it everywhere. Sometimes I’d remember to take it to restaurants, and when dining in other people’s homes, but more often I forgot, or left it at home because it was too inconvenient or embarassing to take.

So, I’m trying something new. I shrunk down my exchange plan checklist (I used a spreadsheet program to make a little chart with boxes for each of my exchange servings under each category - protein, dairy, starch/misc carb, fruit, veggie, dairy, fat. The whole chart is about 2″ square).   I printed out a bunch of the charts (many copies to a page), then cut the charts into pages to assemble little booklets, with cardstock covers (using a tiny hole punch to punch holes in the paper and cardstock and stitched the pages together).  I had enough to make a couple booklets, each about 2″x3″.   When you open a booklet, the food checklist chart is on the left hand page, and the right hand page is blank to write on.

If I write small, I should be able to log all my food for the day. and contains pages for 28 days.

Then I used some plastic canvas and a nice sueded cotton/acrylic yarn to crochet a little “wallet” to hold the little booklet, and protect the book so that it can last me a month of carrying around in my pocket..

My plan is to keep the little journal with me, so I never have an excuse not to write down what I eat, before I eat it (even at home, I would make and eat lunch and then go record it, now I’ll have the log always immediately handy). It’ll also be less conspicuous in restaurants.

I have a short mechanical pencil to use with it. I thought about buying some micropens I saw at the OfficeMax, but I figured that a pencil was safer if the jeans ended up in the wash with the booklet and writing instrument in the pocket (hubby and I are both notorious for forgetting stuff in pockets).

It won’t replace my my Day Planner, because I’ll still want to food journal on a larger page when I have the time, because I also log things like how hungry I am, and also keep a symptom log in there. Also, I keep a lot of other neat motivational stuff in it besides the food journal, like my exercise chart and my weight loss chart (each pound lost is a square on a chart that gets a sticker. Initially I was giving myself a small reward for each 5 lbs, but then I got out of the habit.

I know it may seem more appropriate for a preschooler than a soon-to-be 44 year-old woman, but I’m willing to treat myself like a child if that’s what works.

 

 

 

Rats can’t count calories or keep tiny, little rat food journals

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Not long ago there was a research study that found that rats who drank water sweetened with aspartame ate more sweet foods when given the opportunity than rats not given the aspartame sweetened water.

This has inspired two new diet myths (that irritate me, which is why I’m writing this editorial).

1.  All artificial sweetners make you eat more sweets (or more accurately artificial sweeteners make you want to eat more sweets).

Firstly, the study was only of aspartame, so condemning all artificial sweeteners is premature - and secondly humans are not rats, and we have abilities that rats do not. Rats aren’t able to keep a food journal and set and keep a daily calorie limit.  They can’t say “I know this might make me hungrier for a short period of time, but the emotional satisfaction of having a low-calorie “sweet” dessert is worth a short period of inconveniently having to deal with a few cravings that might occur.”

 

2.  As a result of myth number 1, It’s better to eat “real” sugar.

This one really irritates me, because I believe in the original study, there was no sugar-water group.  The effecfts of aspartame-water was compared to plain water.  There’s no evidence at all that this “hungry for more sugar” experience doesn’t happen as much or more with real sugar, yet people are also saying that you should “eat real sugar” because artificial sweetener makes you hungrier for sweets than real sugar does (there’s been absolutely no support in the research for that claim, as far as I’m aware - in fact, quite a bit the reverse. Sugar is at least as likely to increase hunger for more sweet flavors - so eating “real” sugar probably is no better).

 

I an NOT saying that using artificial sweeteners is necessary to weight loss.  There’s no reason to use them if you don’t want to.  However, an advantage that humans have over rats (probably) is the ability to think about and control our actions.  A rat is unable (I think it’s reasonable to assume) to think ”boy I’m starting to pack on the ounces, I’d better cut back on the munchies.”

 

As a human, we can count calories (or whatever we want to count, carb grams, fat grams, food exchanges, Weight Watcher’s points…), and we can follow diet plans (whether we invented them or someone else), and we can keep food logs, and diet journals to help us gauge our own success.

Unlike a rat, we can keep a food log.  We can write notes in it about how hungry we feel, what we’re craving, how we’re feeling physically …. and if we see patterns that concern us, we can take corrective action.

If aspartame gives you headaches, or you get extra hard to ignore cravings after eating Splenda-sweetened treats, you can decide for yourself whether the food is “worth the trouble.”

My food journals helped me discover that I have a reaction to wheat (that seems worst with bread, so maybe I have a secondary allergy/sensitivity to yeast or some other bread ingredient). I’m avoiding wheat, and planning on eventually getting allergy and celiac tested.

I find that on a very low-carb diet (Atkins induction level) with no sweets or sweeteners of any kind - that I am the least hungry, but I’m also the least enthused about my diet. I feel most like I’m on a diet, and do not feel I’m eating on a plan I can stick with. I also lose the most weight (still not fast, but a whole lot faster than on a high-carb diet of the same calories).

Artificial sweeteners seem to make me hungrier for sweets, and hungrier in general, but the effect seems FAR LESS intense than real carbohydrates do. If I eat something too sweet, even some fruits I find that I feel like I’m “starving” within an hour. If I eat protein with the piece of fruit, this doesn’t happen or is less bothersome.

I find that the emotional satisfaction of having sweet treats is more valuable to me than the small difference in hunger. As a human being, I can choose to ignore hunger, or satisfy it with a zero or low calorie snack.

I do find that my particular downfall is mindless eating - eating without a plan. As much value as I place on food journaling - it’s also something I find very easy to abandon. I’ll do great for a few weeks, and then get lazy.

Without a plan, I do eat more like an animal (an animal with good table manners) - letting my hunger and cravings guide my eating. When my intellect is in control, and I’m aware of what I’m eating, artificial sweeteners do not seem to affect my weight loss at all. I just can’t afford to go on “auto-pilot,” especially using artificial sweeteners, and even more so on a high-carb diet.

The expression “Are you a man, or are you a mouse?” comes to mind, or in this case “Are you a human, or are you a rat?”   The answer is clear, but living like it - isn’t always quite as simple, and yet we do always have the choice to exercise our humanity.

 

 

Cheap Cheesecake meal or dessert, $1.50

Monday, March 8th, 2010

A couple weeks ago, I bought a 2 lb jar of Pure Protein, Vanilla Cream flavor at Target for just under $20.00.  At 26 servings, it comes out to about 77 cents per serving/scoop.   I’m really lazy when it comes to making breakfast, and with the whey protein handy, I find I’m less likely to skip breakfast, because I always have at least enough time to stir a scoop of protein into a glass of skim milk.

This morning I decided to experiment and made a meal pudding.  It was surprisingly good.  The protein powder thickened the pudding almost to a cheesecake texture, so much so that I’m anxious to try the recipe with the cheesecake flavor sf Jello pudding.   The pudding mix I calculated at .73 per box, but I can usually find it cheaper on sale or in store brands.

This isn’t a practical recipe if you don’t have a use for whey protein.  I certainly wouldn’t run out and buy it just for this recipe, but I’m finding the whey protein handier than I expected.  My next purchase is going to be unflavored whey protein, so I can add it to more recipes to increase the protein content.

I did notice on the jello box that it said the pudding will not thicken if made with soy milk - I don’t know if soy protein would also inhibit thickening, something to consider though.

As a meal, it was very filling and a bit too rich (felt like I needed a hot cup of tea or coffee to go with it).  SO much that I think next time, I’ll divide it into at least two servings for a meal, and four servings for a dessert. 
Custard recipe

1pkg sugar free instant pudding, any flavor (I used Jellow brand white chocolate)
1 scoop (34g) whey protein powder (I used Pure Protein, Vanilla Creme flavor)
1 cup skim milk, cold

Mix all ingredients in a jar or tub (one that won’t leak when you shake it).  Shake until ingredients combine and mixture begins to thicken.

Or you can make with a hand mixer or in a food processor or blender (which would make a smoother custard, when shaken sometimes there’s a couple lumps).

Refrigerate or serve immediately.

310 calories (calorie breakdown: 7% fat, 48% carb, 44% protein)
2.5g fat
34g protein
37g carb

Exchanges: 1 dairy, 1 starch, 2 protein